Former Jesuit Volunteer and current JV EnCorps member Jay Lyman (he/him) reflects on his long history of service with JVC Northwest and the ways he’s currently able to connect with and support his local community in Portland, Oregon through his service with JV EnCorps.
As a Jesuit Volunteer in Nome, Alaska (‘75-76), I eagerly stepped into the role of providing maintenance for Nome’s St. Joseph Church, the rectory, the KNOM radio station, and several dorms that housed the radio volunteers. Little did I know then that almost half a century later, I would again be offering service in church maintenance as a JV EnCorps member!
Jay Lyman skiing on the tundra as a JV in Nome, AK (’75-76)
When my wife, Colleen Marilley Lyman (‘74-76, Nome) and I retired (Colleen as an RN and I as a civil engineer), we happened to move nearby to St. Philip Deacon Episcopal Church in Northeast Portland. It was then that we learned of the church’s plans for building a low-income housing project.
St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church is a small, historically Black church in inner Northeast Portland. For more than 70 years, St. Philip has played an active role in the life of the Albina area, with a strong congregation and a lively schedule of activities in its parish hall. In recent years, however, the church has seen the impacts of gentrification in the neighborhood, plus the aging of their congregation. The congregation decided that the best use of a portion of their property would be to dedicate it to building low-income housing. After years of planning and fundraising, the church is now poised to complete the design of a 75-unit housing complex, with construction scheduled to begin in 2024. The apartments will provide homes for a variety of people, ranging from recently unhoused individuals to folks earning 30-60% of the region’s median income. Approximately one quarter of the units will be reserved for ultra-low-income individuals, mainly of whom will be transitioning from homelessness.
In my initial discussions with the pastor, Reverend Dr. Maria McDowell, I explained my background in civil engineering and expressed interest in helping with the low-income housing project. I also shared about my experience as a JV providing maintenance at St. Joseph in Nome. At that time, plans for the housing project were still on hold, but she noted that many of the parishioners who had previously been taking care of the church’s maintenance tasks were no longer able to continue. So I stepped in as needed, and have been periodically called to help with minor repairs. As the staff and I got to know one another, and as grant funds were secured for the housing project, Reverend Dr. McDowell enthusiastically accepted my offer to lend my experience in planning, design, and construction with larger projects at St. Philip. I am now honored and gratified to participate as a representative of the church in the weekly design meetings along with the project architects and staff from Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives, Inc., a non-profit community housing developer that will be the lead developer of the project.
One of the blessings of being an older adult is to look back and see how my life has been woven together. I have come full circle as a JV and now a JV EnCorps member. My experience in Nome now strengthens my service in Portland. My many years as an engineer have added to the options of how I can be of use to my community. I am grateful to now be of service to this worthy project in my neighborhood.